How to Create an Ergonomic Office (BONUS: 9 Ergonomic Tips for Starters)

How employees feel significantly affects how productive they are. Working in an office may put a lot of stress on people, particularly considering that the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the average American works 8.8 hours per day.

This is a lot of time for anyone to spend being cooped up in a closed environment, sitting down, staring at the monitor, and waiting for the clock to strike five! So, it’s no wonder you are only productive for half the day while using the rest of the time to read the news, check your Facebook, make snacks, or have a chat with co-workers.

That said, there is a way to increase your own productivity, level of comfort, and enjoyment of work, all in one go!

Enhance your ergonomic practices at the workstation to create a more comfortable working environment, tailored exactly to your needs. A better chair, the correct height desk, a well-positioned monitor arm, these things will have you sitting properly, feeling better, and working harder.

What is an ergonomic office?

Ergonomics is the study of work and work environment design to find the healthiest and most productive conditions to work in. It involves creating an efficient overall working environment by using specific items of furniture, tools, lighting, and equipment to ensure a better utilization of the office space, and help reduce physical and psychological stress on a worker’s body.

In today’s highly competitive market, industries often forget about the employees’ work conditions, as they focus more on enhancing their product quality and increasing production.

As a result, many people have to:

  • Work overtime (more than 8 hours).
  • Work at a faster pace.
  • Perform heavy lifting, carrying, pushing loads without any additional human or technological help.
  • Perform a single task for a prolonged period of time.

These factors, along with poor workplace design can lead to employee work-related injuries. The majority of individuals suffer from back pain, neck pain, headaches, wrist issues, hip and knee problems, you name it.

This is precisely where ergonomics comes in handy because it’s the science of meeting both the company’s and the employees’ needs by adjusting workplace and job conditions to fit the needs of the workers, whilst being as efficient as possible.

Why companies should invest in ergonomic offices?

According to The American Institute of Stress, job stress is by far the biggest source of stress for American adults. In fact, occupational pressures steadily increased over the past few decades. Just take a look these statistics:

  • 83% of U.S. workers are stressed.
  • Up to 80% of accidents at work result from stress.
  • 1,000,000 workers nationwide miss work each day due to stress.
  • Stress causes approximately $300 billion in lost productivity.

Source: American Institute of Stress

While 59% of executives are not ready to address the employee experience, reports show that happy employees are 20% more productive than unhappy ones. Interestingly, the key to employee retention and satisfaction is making them feel valued and appreciated. And what is a better way to show appreciation then investing in an office design that will make them feel comfortable and safe?

Nowadays, creating the ergonomic culture is the healthiest and most preferred method available. Some of the proven benefits your organization can expect include:

  • Physical Safety – Embracing ergonomics in the office can help prevent many types of injuries at work. Your employees won’t have to worry about their health and the workplace culture will become more positive and productive.
  • Reduced Costs – By reducing risk factors, you can prevent pricy compensation costs and the cost of losing an employee due to injury. Musculoskeletal disorders are at the top of the workplace injuries list and responsible for about 30% of compensation costs that usually come at a direct cost of almost $15,000.
  • Enhanced Quality of Work – Another thing ergonomics can help you improve is work quality. When the job is too overwhelming and draining, even the trained workers may not do their best. This can affect the output quality.
  • Productivity – The best ergonomic office products: a standing desk, correct height desks, chairs, mouse and keyboard, are all designed to improve productivity. Once the workstation is equipped with specially designed office supplies for less exertion and better posture, the office environment becomes more efficient.

There many reasons to adopt an ergonomic office strategy, but primarily, good ergonomic design allows every member of the team to feel better, and such a positive environment is a great source of motivation.

How to design your ergonomic office?

We’ve talked a lot about why a company should invest in an ergonomic office design, but you must also realize that its also upon you to create your own setup. Not everyone works in an office that will create the perfect working environment, so you can take it upon yourself to find the products you need to create your very own ergonomic workspace.

Ergonomic Chairs

Do you have a chair with back and neck support?

The position of your head is very important for people who do most of their work sitting behind the computer. You need good lumbar support that only chairs with adjustable seats and backs provide. Otherwise, employees might begin to experience consequences such as:

  • Back pain associated with sitting for a prolonged period of time.
  • Shoulder and neck tension or pain due to the incorrectly positioned armrest and poor posture.
  • Eyestrain and headaches come as a result of tense shoulders and neck, as well as badly adjusted office chairs.
  • Tingling sensations in legs or feet because of improper chair height.
  • You should be able to comfortably put your feet on the floor with your legs at a 90-degree angle.

To know what to look for in an ergonomic chair, we have an in-depth guide that will give you all the advice you need.

Ergonomic Desks

The 90-degree angle is also a vital position for people who use computers on a daily basis. In order to maintain a correct posture and prevent wrist issues, neck pain, sore eyes, and headaches, your desks need to be height-adjustable, so that you can look straight ahead or slightly down at the screen. This task could be tough for taller people who risk their health by constantly hunching over. Luckily, ergonomic desks for tall people allow them to stay protected and free of any discomfort.

Additionally, some people turn to adjustable height standing desks in order to get the full benefit of an ergonomic desk, both while sitting and while standing.

Ergonomic Monitor Arms

Adjustable monitor arms are designed to clamp to your desk and have full adjustability to tilt, pan, and rotate into the correct position. With a monitor arm, you can easily adjust you screen height so you eyes are level with the top of the monitor, which puts the least amount of strain on your neck, back, and vision.

Ergonomic Mouse and Keyboard

With ergonomic desks in place, it’s only reasonable to further improve your comfort and productivity levels with an ergonomic mouse and a keyboard. The main rule for the keyboard is to set it up directly in front of the monitor so that you can type without having to constantly turn left or right. In addition to the visual stress working on a computer may cause, the mouse and keyboard are also responsible for repetitive strain injuries like wrist and hand pain that often occur in an office environment.

An external keyboard and a mouse are more ergonomic than built-in solutions, especially if working on a laptop. They support a good position of wrists and arms, reducing the amount of stress placed on your wrists, hands, fingers, and elbows.

If you are particularly struggling with pain in your wrists, there are exercises and products to help alleviate this pain.

Ergonomic Lighting

Another thing you might want to stay healthy and engaged is proper lighting for specific tasks they are performing. The natural and ceiling light might not be adequate or sufficient solutions, but you can get adjustable desk lamps or different temperature light to focus the light precisely where and when they need it.

Additional ergonomic ideas

The ergonomic setting is more than just decorating the office, it’s about creating an environment that makes you comfortable. Apart from proper lighting, temperature, and other essentials, you need to take regular breaks. For every hour, allow yourself 5-minute breaks to get in a bit of physical activity or use “micro-breaks” of 2 minutes every 20 minutes just to remove yourself from your desk and computer and relax the eyes and mind.

These breaks are necessary for you to refresh, recharge, and approach the task at hand with more creativity and focus. There are a number of apps dedicated to reminding you to take regular breaks and break up your work day.

  • Eyeleo – Eyeleo is an excellent tool that reminds you that it’s time to rest your eyes. Staring at a computer monitor can seriously damage your eyesight, which is why the application dims or disables the screen for a specifically defined period, depending on the type of break the users require.
  • EyeCare – This is a great Google Chrome extension with a 20-20-20 rule that the users must follow. Every 20 minutes, you have to look at something at the distance of at least 20 feet for 20 seconds. It might sound strange, but it works.
  • Time Out: Time Out is perfect for two things: mandatory 10-minute or 10 second breaks. The timeframe customization is optional.

BONUS: 9 Ergonomic Tips for Starters

The above image is actually a great example of NOT following ergonomic guidelines. Many people may do this, invest in a standing desk, but then not set the correct monitor or screen height, creating further neck and back issues. To address this issue, we have created the following list of essential ergonomic office tips:

  1. The head, neck, and weight of the arms should be supported at all times. If not, the muscles of the neck and shoulders will become tense and other issues such as back pain and headaches will arise.
  2. The monitor should be an arm’s length away from you, your eyes aligned with the top of the monitor, and your keyboard aligned with the front of the screen to avoid rotation.
  3. Shoulders should be relaxed and down (not hunched up), while elbows stay at your side at a 90-degree angle. Both the keyboard and the mouse comfortably fit in the space between your shoulders.
  4. Chairs should be comfortable, height-adjustable, and as close to the work desk as possible to avoid slouching. Also, your feet should be flat on the floor and your knees bent at a healthy 90-degree angle.
  5. To avoid problems that arise from being in the same position for extended periods, use an adjustable height desk for switching between sitting and standing up throughout the day.
  6. Take regular 5-minute breaks or micro-breaks to move around during the day. This should help rest your body, eyes, and mind.
  7. Use a headset if you spend most of your day answering calls.
  8. Do a brief workout during the day, even if it’s just brisk walking around the office.
  9. Don’t forget about lighting, temperature, and air-quality – these are also important factors in creating a comfortable and ergonomic office environment.
Ergonomic office posture for sitting and standing desks
This is a pretty clear example of how to sit or stand in an ergonomic office. Source: LifeHacker

Final Thoughts

We live in a modern world and it’s only appropriate for businesses to start adopting more advanced office-friendly strategies that can help increase productivity and drive business success. It’s no secret that satisfied employees perform significantly better than those who don’t feel too comfortable at work, especially considering that all they really want is a positive and healthy work environment.

Ergonomic work principles are the leverage most organization seek, but often overlook. By optimizing the office landscape, including the office space, furniture, employee tools, and overall task management, you can reduce the risks of costly employee turnover, compensation, and quality issues.

Nevertheless, it is also your responsibility as an employee to create your own ergonomic workspace. There are a number of products that help you design a more comfortable and efficient office space, as well as other techniques such as regular breaks, better posture, and correct desk and chair setup. Start small and build on your efforts, it doesn’t have to be perfect from day one. It takes a while to break a bad habit, so stick with it and you’ll be reaping the benefits in years to come.


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This article was reviewed and approved by Dr. Marija Petkovic.

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